Opinion: Why being a boss is like a hostage crisis

Ex-hostage negotiator George Kohlrieser says that leaders walk a thin line based on trust.

Story highlights

  • As a former hostage negotiator, George Kohlrieser has been held hostage four times
  • He says hostage negotiators are successful because they build trust through dialogue
  • Today, Kohlrieser works mostly with corporate leaders instead of hostage takers
  • He says building a "secure base" to employees is essential for good leadership
I'm no stranger to the kind of dehumanized violence we saw happen in a Colorado movie theater earlier this summer.
As a hostage negotiator, I've been held hostage myself four times in the line of duty. That's never a comfortable place to be, but I kept in mind that the success rate of hostage negotiators is as high as 95% and I knew why. Hostage negotiators are successful because they build trust through dialogue.
That dialogue changes the mindset of the hostage taker so he will surrender his weapons and hostages, even though he is aware he will probably go to prison.
In essence, the hostage negotiator becom